Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Big Over Easy (by Jasper Fforde)

I read all the Thursday Next books, so I figured I was committed and might as well read the Nursery Crime books too! At the moment I've had some wine, so I'll come back when I've had fewer wine and tell you all about it.


Well I'm not still drunk, but I sort of forgot about this book. It's typical Fforde silliness, if you like that sort of thing. Humpty Dumpty has been murdered, and Detective Jack Spratt and his new assistant, Mary Mary, are on the hunt for the killer. You will either find it irritatingly twee or charmingly clever, or, if you're like me, an uncomfortable mixture of both.

After reading Fforde's site, I realize that it's very closely tied to The Well of Lost Plots. In that book, Thursday Next ends up hiding out in an unpublished novel. Fforde used one of his own unpublished novels and then revised it and published it as The Big Over Easy. Which is a little confusing, but with Fforde, you either go with it or you don't, I guess.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (by Stephanie Barron)

The premise of the novel (the first in a series) is that Jane Austen solves mysteries. The conceit is that Austen's mystery-solving diaries have been unearthed, and they are now being edited by Stephanie Barron. This book... is pretty damn silly, to be honest. And it has some problems.

First of all, of course, it's implausible. Jane Austen constantly finds herself alone with men who confide in her; if you've watched any Austen adaptation, you know how unlikely that ever is to happen. The impropriety, I mean. There's also a lot of repurposing of Austen's own lines (and I only noticed the really famous ones, so god only knows how much of her less famous writing was in there), which gives me the impression that Barron didn't have enough creativity to really try and pull off the Austen trick. As this review says, the footnotes are extraneous and distracting.

But you know, I don't think you go into a "Jane Austen solves mysteries" novel expecting literary greatness. I enjoy mysteries and I enjoy Jane Austen. I probably wouldn't buy the rest of them, but I'll probably check them out of the library for some light and fluffy fun reading. She can't work the "a single man of good fortune" line into every book in the series, can she?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

All the King’s Men (by Robert Penn Warren)

I tried to read this book a few times, but could never get into it, and quit after a few pages. I thought, oh, it’s a penisy white guy book about politics, blah blah blah. But, thanks to the reading project, I borrowed another copy and gave it one more valiant attempt. And oh my god. This book is magnificent. Magnificent. I was incredibly impressed by the vivid, realistic characters that populate the novel, but I was most impressed by the author’s use of metaphor. The man has an astounding way with metaphor. In fact, I can’t think off the top of my head of another author who can wield a metaphor like Robert Penn Warren. And I have a poetry degree. Even if I had known that I would love this novel, I would never have guessed that it would be a stylistic type of love.

I’ve also never had so many strangers come up to me and say “Oh, that’s a great novel, you’ll love it.” I had several people on the train say it; and last night, a woman at a bar sat down next to me just to tell me how much she loved the book. No book I’ve carried around with me has ever gotten that response. I don’t know if there are people out there who don’t like the book, but now I know that there are a whole lot of people who love it. Do yourself a favor and go out and read this. If you don’t like the first chapter, stick with it. It’s really worth it.

"Then, after a while, the sun was in my eyes, for I was driving west. So I pulled the sun screen down and squinted and put the throttle to the floor. And kept on moving west.

For West is where we all plan to go someday. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying:
Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and see the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.

It was just where I went."
(Page 270)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Moms Are Weird (by Pamela Ribon)

Another book from our own Pamie! She’s a franchise, now, right? I tore through this book as quickly as I did the last one; it's another page-turner and a lot of fun to read. I think it’s really interesting the way Pam writes characters and dialogue. Each character and line of dialogue is always a little left of center. Nobody behaves the way you’d exactly expect them to, and as a result, the characters can’t be pigeonholed or predicted. For example, as far as the love interests went, I couldn’t tell who the main character (Benny) was going to end up with, or even if she would end up with either of them, since they were both kind of Why Boys Are Weird… and explaining more would be a spoiler, so I guess you’ll just have to go read it for yourself and see what you think!

Incidentally, I bought this at the Barnes & Noble in Berkeley, and the last time I was in there was with Pamie herself—I remember we stopped in after brunch and saw Why Girls Are Weird on the shelf. I’m not sure why that’s important, but it seemed Emblematic of something. Congratulations to Pam for getting another book on that Berkeley Barnes & Noble shelf, among many others. It’s an awesome accomplishment.